Reflecting on his first professional season, Bakersfield Condors defenceman Joey LaLeggia is pleased with his growth.
“There’s a lot of learning that had to be done this year,” he said. “There was an adjustment period but I do like the way I finished the season. I think I made a lot of strides and I’m excited going into next year.”
A season of up and downs for the Oilers AHL affiliate team saw LaLeggia’s versatility challenged, stepping out of his comfort zone to take on the role of wingman when needed.
“I think everyone’s goal is to come in here and play in the NHL and to become the best player they can possibly be,” said LaLeggia. “I didn’t get to play in the NHL [this season] but… I am very happy with the strides I made in my game this year.”
Heading into the off-season, the blueliner said he plans to alter his fitness regime slightly.
“I think I need to lift a little more weights than usual… but without doing so much that I lose my speed and my quickness.”
With the Bakersfield Condors season now come to a close, defenceman Brad Hunt said that in looking back, he’s been impressed with the growth he’s seen in his younger teammates.
“It’s good to see the first and second-year guys come in and you see them develop throughout the year,” said Hunt. “It’s awesome to see guys like Joey [LaLeggia] and [Jujhar Khaira] take the steps towards the right direction, even Oesterle getting up [to Edmonton] and playing as well as he did.”
The veteran player, recalled by the Oilers for seven games this season, recorded 13 goals and 28 assists for 41 points in 57 games with the Condors.
The blueliner is now preparing himself mentally for the next stretch as he navigates his unrestricted free agent title with an open mind.
“Just [going to] wait and see what happens,” said Hunt. “That’s the business part of it. I’ve never been in this position before, I’ve always been a restricted free agent, now I’m an unrestricted free agent. But I was treated very well within the Edmonton organization and I’ve got to thank them for the opportunity that they’ve given me over the past three years. It’s something that I’ll never forget.”
It’s the first time in five consecutive seasons that the Oilers AHL affiliate Bakersfield Condors will not take part in the post-season run for the Calder Cup.
“It’s a frustrating way to go out,” admits Condors forward Jujhar Khaira. “It’s pretty sad but I think at the same time it’s good to see, our team’s pretty young here and it’s good to see where everybody’s at, and next year, I think everybody’s going to come in with confidence and we’ll see what happens.”
Although their season ended Saturday, the Condors finished on a high note with a three-game win streak and a 31-28-7-2 record.
“Obviously, we wanted to make the playoffs but I think that the team made some good strides at the end there that went in those last three games, that’s for the fans,” said Condors defenceman Brad Hunt. “They showed us support all year and it was a great atmosphere in there and that’s a tribute to the fans.”
Another season of hockey has come and gone for the Bakersfield Condors.
As Saturday saw the Oilers AHL affiliate wrap up their 2015-16 season on Saturday with a win against the Grand Rapids Griffins, Monday was one filled with departures and goals for next season.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Condors forward Jujhar Khaira. “I thought the fans out here were great, the weather’s great for sure, I had a lot of fun. Just playing with that kind of crowd and that kind of excitement it was a lot of fun.
Khaira, who was recalled by the Oilers this season for 15 games this season, recorded 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points in 49 games with Bakersfield.
“It was a good year,” he said. “I had a lot more confidence this year than last year, just going to take the same thing, go into the summer and have a strong summer, then come back and even have more confidence.”
Oilers prospect and Seattle Thunderbirds defenceman Ethan Bear is moving on in the WHL Playoffs.
Seattle beat Everett 3-2 in Game 5 to take the series 4-1. The Thunderbirds will now head to the Western Conference Final to face either Kelowna or Victoria. Kelowna leads that series 3-2.
8. WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP BOUND pic.twitter.com/ObDIQLQwgL— Seattle Thunderbirds (@SeattleTbirds) April 17, 2016
Bear finished Game 5 +2 with no points. He has three goals and six assists for nine points in nine games this post-season.
The defenceman was selected in the fifth round, 124th overall, by the Oilers in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Bear was named third star of the game Friday as the Thunderbirds beat the Silvertips in Game 4 of their WHL Playoffs second-round series.
The defenceman finished the game +1 with one assist. He recorded the second assist on the game’s opening goal.
Bear has nine points (3-6-9) in eight playoff games this post-season. He has one goal and four assists in four games this series.
He was selected in the fifth round, 124th overall, by the Oilers in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Seattle has won three straight games since dropping the series opener and looks to eliminate Everett tonight.
Meanwhile, Bouchard and his Wildcats also picked up a win Friday. The goaltender made 24 saves on 28 shots in a 6-4 win over the Olympiques.
Moncton was spurred to victory by a five-goal third period. In that third, Bouchard allowed just one goal in the final 20 minutes as Moncton trailed 3-1 heading into the frame.
Bouchard and the Wildcats lead the series 3-2 and look to close it out Monday on the road.
The goalie was taken 183rd overall in the seventh round of the 2014 NHL Draft.
Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr was a guest of Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now Thursday and talked about Central Scouting’s final draft rankings and some of the top prospects in the upcoming 2016 NHL Draft.
Marr gave his insights on the top three skaters, ranked one, two and three atop the European skaters list: Auston Matthews (Zurich), Patrik Laine (Tappara) and Jesse Puljujarvi (Karpat).
“They’ve been frontrunners right from the get-go, and I would say all of them have exceeded the projections that were in place for them,” said Marr.
All three have their individual positive traits, but Matthews is considered the cream of the crop.
“Auston Mathews is clear-cut, the best prospect available for this 2016 Draft,” said Marr. “Laine and Puljujarvi, they’ve each made individual cases for themselves to be part of the discussion but they’re just not going to supplant Auston Matthews right now. The teams picking in the top five or six of the draft are going to come away with a future star for their team down the road.”
Laine and Puljujarvi are different from Matthews and each other. Laine exhibits dynamic offensive ability in contrast to the power-forward game of Puljujarvi.
“It’s like a Brett Hull release, and you’re always wondering because you know Brett Hull has the shot, why is he open on the play? Laine can deliver that,” said Marr.
“(Puljujarvi) can rely on his physical attritbutes a little bit more. Not the same skill set, but we’re talking really minuscule differences between these players here. I just think Laine right now has a little bit more dynamic game he brings to the table. Puljujarvi might have what you’d call the more up-and-down game.”
All three of these players could make an immediate impact at the NHL level, given the right situation.
“All three are capable to go to a team and make the team out of training camp,” said Marr. “Whether they’re in a position to play in the National Hockey League during the season is up to the players and the teams.”
A pair of Oilers prospects had big nights in their respective junior playoffs series on Wednesday.
Oilers defensive prospect Ethan Bear and the Seattle Thunderbirds have edged ahead of the Everett Silvertips in their WHL Playoffs series.
Seattle is now up 2-1 in the series, following a 5-0 blanking of the Tips in Game 3 on Wednesday. Bear was named the game’s First Star after scoring a goal, adding an assist and finishing +3 on the night.
Bear’s goal, a snipe from the high slot, at 9:14 of the second period put Seattle up 2-0. Bear also assisted on the game’s opening goal, which served as the game winner.
The series stays in Everett for Game 4 on Friday, as Seattle looks to push their opponent to the brink of elimination.
Bear was taken 124th overall in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Draft.
Oilers draft pick Keven Bouchard is among the top goalie performers in the QMJHL playoffs. The Moncton goaltender is 6-3 in the playoffs and has a .919 save percentage.
Bouchard was named the first star of the game Wednesday night as he made 31 saves in a 2-1 overtime win over Gatineau. Their quarter final series is tied 2-2, and continues Friday in Moncton.
Bouchard was selected by the Oilers in the seventh round, 183rd overall, of the 2014 NHL Draft.
The NHL has released their final rankings for the 2016 NHL Draft, which will be held in Buffalo, NY June 24-25. NHL Central Scouting Bureau released its final ballot of draft-eligible skaters, and forward Auston Matthews tops that list.
Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr says Matthews is “an extraordinary prospect with NHL size, speed and smarts combined with an exceptional work ethic and a relentless compete level.”
Matthews, a Scottsdale, AZ native, skated for Zurich in Switzerland this past season, leading his team in goals with 24 (24-22-46). Matthews ranks at the top of the European skaters list, followed by Finnish wingers Patrik Laine (Tappara) and Jesse Puljujarvi (Karpat).
Laine is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound winger who scored 17 goals and had 33 points in 46 games for Tappara in Finland. He was a part of the Finland team that won gold at the 2016 World Junior Championship.
Puljujarvi was also on that Finnish team. The 6-foot-3, 201-pound right winger had 28 points (13-15-28) in 50 games for Karpat.
Atop the final rankings for North American skaters is Cape Breton left winger Pierre-Luc Dubois. The next two are London’s Matthew Tkachuk and Alexander Nylander.
Dubois scored 42 goals and finished his season with 99 points and 112 penalty minutes for the QMJHL’s Screaming Eagles. He is a big left-shot winger at 6-foot-3 and 202 pounds.
Tkachuk played for the OHL’s Knights, potting 30 goals and adding 77 assists for 107 points in 57 games this season. He comes from a hockey family, as the son of long-time NHL winger Keith Tkachuk and the brother of 2018 draft-eligible Brady Tkachuk.
Nylander, a winger, played 2015-16 with the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League. The son of long-time NHL player Michael Nylander and brother of Toronto prospect William Nylander finished the year with 75 points (28-47-75) in 57 games.
The final rankings feature the top 210 skaters and 30 goaltenders from the U.S. and Canada, as well as the top 150 skaters and 15 goaltenders from Europe.
The 2016 NHL Draft Lottery will be held on April 30.
Hockey Canada announced today their first 18 players and the Oilers will be well-represented at the IIHF World Championships next month. Forwards Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall will be joined by goaltender Cam Talbot on Team Canada.
The Oilers have also confirmed over the last two days that forwards Patrick Maroon and Matt Hendricks will skate for Team USA, while defenceman Andrej Sekera will represent Slovakia and centre Leon Draisaitl will play for Germany.